Legend Bobby Griffin celebrates 80 years
He may have 80 years of life experience, most of which has involved playing or being involved in various codes of football, but legend masseuse Bobby Griffin still admits to being too nervous to watch a live game after he finishes his pre-match rub-downs of the players.
Bobby made the admission at a large celebration on Saturday afternoon at Hotel Queanbeyan, known as the Top Pub, run by his son and Tigers 100 game player Matt Griffin.
A host of family and friends attended the birthday party. There were plenty of familiar faces from the Canberra Raiders (where Bobby was bus driver and masseuse for 23 years) and from the Tigers (where Bobby still does rub-downs on match-days).
Former Tigers coaches Kevin Delmenico, Brian Quade and Mark Armstrong were joined by past and current players including Roger Cuschieri, Neil Irwin, Ryan Quade, Michael Wescombe, Michael Goiser, Robert Anderson, Doug Daniel, Jason Gilbert, Michael Niesen, Col Imrie, Frank Palombi, Ryan Price, and legendary goal kicker Mal Wheeler.
Bobby is a key part of the Tigers large band of volunteers. Some of his fellow volunteers there to help the celebrations included Noel Miller, Fred Gisik, Gary Bullivant, Bob Gibbs, Peter Duncan, Mal Corcoran, Wally Gisik, Ron Fowlie, Nicole Bright, Wally Thompson, Sonya Price, Jill Bright, Nic and Joan Vosnakes and Danny Rutten.
As a measure of his standing in the local sporting community, the Canberra Times reported on the celebrations in their Sunday edition. The Canberra Times article read:
Ex-Raiders Ricky Stuart and Craig Bellamy reunite for Bobby Griffin’s 80th birthday
Mal Meninga spent an hour on the phone with him, Craig Bellamy flew in from Melbourne for a party and Ricky Stuart describes him as “the lifeblood” of the Canberra Raiders.
Most Raiders fans have probably never heard of Bobby Griffin. But the club’s greatest players have no doubt he was a driving force behind their golden generation.
Griffin turns 80 on Sunday and hundreds gathered in Queanbeyan on Saturday for a birthday party, which doubled as a journey back to the Green Machine’s glory years.
The former club masseur doubled as a bus driver in the Raiders’ early days, spending 23 years on the support staff before retiring in 2006.
He was there when the Raiders won their premierships in 1989, 1990 and 1994, toured with the Australian Super League team in 1997 and was with the NSW State of Origin side in the same year.
“Bobby was everyone’s best mate, and genuinely your best mate,” Stuart said.
“It’s what we were like at the Raiders then, our best mate was Griffo. His family would take you in, you’d go to his house to get massages. Griffo was the lifeblood of the club, he’ll always be remembered as part of the Raiders’ family.
“He would always put his Akubra hat out there and put a few $5 and $10 notes in and when the boys would get on the bus and think they’d have to tip him.
“He’d end up more in tips than his pay. He drove us to games, massage us before the game and he was the only one, then drive us home that night.”
As a mark of his standing in Raiders’ history, Meninga and Tim Sheens called Griffin last week and Melbourne Storm coach Bellamy flew to Canberra for a reunion.
Former Raiders chairman John McIntyre, captain Simon Woolford and games record holder Jason Croker also turned up for the party.
As well as working for the Raiders, Griffin played 151 games for the Queanbeyan Tigers and 130 games for the Queanbeyan Blues.
He won a premiership with the Tigers in 1956, was packed in their team of the century and spent a season with the Queanbeyan Whites.
But not ready to cut ties with sport, Griffin was the Tigers’ masseur in their AFL Canberra premiership season last year. The only problem is he’s always been too nervous to watch games.
“I’d stay in the change rooms … lie on the table and put a towel over my face to try to drown out the crowd. I’m too nervous, I can’t even watch my kids play,” Griffin said.
“Simon Woolford was the worst asking for massages, and Brett Hetherington. Mal Meninga was the best player I saw, by a long way.
“Winning the first premiership with the Raiders has to be the favourite memory.”
Former Tigers coach Kevin Delmenico (left) and former General Manager of Football Ron Fowlie (right) were there to help celebrate Bobby Griffin’s 80th birthday
Ricky Stuart, Simon Woolford, Les McIntyre and Jason Croker were all with the Canberra Raiders during Bobby’s years with them. They are pictured here in front of a Queanbeyan Tigers premiership banner for the 1956 season – a year Bobby and his premiership teammates went through undefeated.